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My Top 11 Benefits of Going Primal

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story [1] from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

I have, in the name of health gain and weight loss, experimented with vegetarianism, veganism, low fat dieting, a sugar-wheat-and-dairy-free diet (still low-fat or I’d have probably stuck with that one!), calorie counting and juice fasting over the past thirty years. Many of you reading will recognise the pattern of interspersing these oft-repeated and generally short lived regimes with periods of overeating either junk or a “healthy balanced diet.” It’s a frustrating, demoralising and damaging way to live.

During this time I have seen my weight yo-yo anywhere between 140 and 224 pounds. And along the way I’ve suffered crippling depression, anxiety, acne, frequent bouts of tonsillitis, chronic constipation, binge-eating, inexplicable periods of exhaustion, insomnia and brain fog.

I’ve always known that many of my issues were diet related, so I read everything on nutrition I could get my hands on. I even qualified as a nutritional therapist! But, despite seeing astonishing results with private clients I couldn’t seem to sort myself out. I felt rubbish. My confidence was shot.

But in May 2014, aged 41 and after suffering my worst and longest depressive episode yet, I read Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar.” And having gained some confidence over the next few weeks with a zero fructose intake, I looked into her suggested resources, which included Mark’s Daily Apple. Inspired by the success stories and encouraged by Mark’s obvious expertise, I got each of the fabulous Primal Blueprint [3] books. It was like I’d come home! Finally something that instinctively, intellectually and academically made sense! I also devoured everything else I could get my hands on (pun intended) in the paleo/keto/bulletproof/bio-hacking world of books, blogs and podcasts [4]. Even when I didn’t follow advice, it kept me inspired to just keep reading and immerse myself in this world.

I’ve not taken anything to extremes. Low energy and a household to run have meant that I’ve taken a two-steps-forward-one-step-back approach over the last year. But my diet is now based on eggs, meat, fish, veg, butter, cream, yoghurt, coconut oil, nuts and seeds and I feel better than I have for years. Here are the top ten benefits I have noticed in my own health and well being in the past 12 months…

Benefit #1

I no longer suffer with anxiety, or it’s tricky cousin, social anxiety. I can now deal with problems, incidents and events both at work and socially and I am now able to work through them without complete melt down, tears, belly ache, racing pulse or insomnia.

I’ve even been out with friends, which had not been possible for months before adopting a Primal lifestyle, and not agonised over each detail, felt responsible for other people’s moods or been paranoid that nobody wanted me there in the first place.

Benefit #2

No depression. No moping. No crippling lack of self-worth. No wishing the world would swallow me up. In 2013 I was unable to enjoy my summer holidays. My mood refused to elevate no matter what I did. Camping in the middle of nowhere, beautiful walks, parties with friends, even reading, playing the piano and family mealtimes – you name it, I was struggling not to cry at the sheer frustration of being able to enjoy it.

In contrast, the summer of 2014 was my best in memory, the highlight of which was having complete hysterics when I face planted off a paddle board in Cornwall rather than making the graceful dive I’d planned to execute. I howled with laughter until the tears streamed down my face. I’ve felt real joy on a number of occasions over the past year. I can’t stress how big a deal this is. Even with the day-to-day stuff like walking in the forest with my husband or curling up with my daughters – I’m finally able to live in the moment and fully enjoy these times.

Benefit #3

No binging. No cramming down a huge bar of chocolate / packet of biscuits / hastily made cake and then eating a meal an hour or so later. No eating until I physically throw up. No mindlessly working my way through a loaf of bread in an afternoon and then fighting to stay awake when my family arrive home. I occasionally lose control over crisps (potato chips?) but we are talking a couple of small packets, not an entire family bag of kettle chips.

I do still eat a lot, but I am not afraid of hunger any more. I’ve tried intermittent fasting but I’m not sure I manage very well on it. Having said that, my blood sugar is pretty stable now and, if necessary, I can skip the occasional meal without trauma!

Benefit #4

I get to sleep at night! Having suffered nightmares and insomnia since childhood I now sleep soundly. No more pacing the house in the early hours. No more tossing and turning. No more night sweats, hallucinations or midnight carb cravings. It’s like general anaesthetic! I turn the light out and I wake up 8.5 hours later.

Benefits #5, 6 & 7

My nails have stopped peeling, breaking and flaking and have become strong, shiny and flexible.

My previously thin and brittle hair is thickening up and becoming soft.

My acne has finally, after nearly 30 years, nearly cleared up and my developing wrinkles have been replaced with softer, plumper skin. (You can see from the photos below that I’ve lost that puffiness round my face too.)

Benefit #8

My body temperature is better regulated. I only realised this when I was swimming in the sea (UK summer water temperature maxes out at around 15 degrees Celsius) with only a bikini and light rash vest. I haven’t been able to do that since I was a kid! I’m getting better at handling heat too, which used to make me feel very uncomfortable. I’ll be putting handling these extremes to the test in November when I plan to take part in a Wolf Run, which includes swimming across a lake!

Also, despite having spent years trying to find a deodorant that worked on me, I don’t even need one any more. I’ll use a quick swipe of coconut oil if I’m working or running, but that’s it.

Benefit #9

A clear head. I have no idea how I made it through school let alone university; the combination of constant brain fog, undiagnosed dyslexia and social anxiety made my educational experiences somewhat sub-par. My reports were devastating. Teachers were frustrated with what they perceived as sheer laziness but the reality was that I was struggling to focus on what they were saying and to read while the words danced all over the page. I no longer suffer with brain fog unless I have eaten wheat, (which I still do occasionally and consciously!) and my focus is significantly better. I can also remember short sequences of numbers, letters or instructions which was previously impossible.

Benefit #10

I’ve only lost around 14 pounds, but look slimmer than I did previously at eight pounds less again; I guess I’ve made good muscle gain too. And I’ve been eating a lot! I take my coffee with thick (heavy) cream. I use a lot of butter. I eat homemade ice-cream. I devour pork crackling and streaky bacon. I certainly eat until I’m full at each mealtime!

After a great deal of experimentation I have discovered that I function best on a high fat breakfast, a small fat and protein based lunch and a large evening meal of meat, veggies and rice or sweet potatoes. No more heartburn or night sweats for me.

Running used to be a strain on my knees and ankles but there’s no discomfort now. I’m also getting to grips with a pull-up bar and a kettle bell (not simultaneously!). I plan to take my abysmally low fitness levels in hand this year, confident that I’ll soon be in better shape in my forties than I was in my teens.

Benefit #11

Now that I don’t need to cram food in – to give me energy, to make me sleepy, to comfort, to fill up, to alleviate or block out whatever emotions I cannot otherwise deal with, I am really enjoying my meals again. I do not fear hunger or get anxious before mealtimes. And so I get to savour and appreciate whatever I’ve served up. Bonus! My family is also enjoying the new variety of food that I’m dishing up and have noticed how much better their energy is compared with many of their friends and colleagues.

In essence, life is good and I feel like it’s only really just getting started. I still get upset, angry, nervous and tired – but these states of being are generally proportional to what’s actually going on. Leaving me to get on and enjoy the rest of life without self-sabotage. If this is what getting older is like then bring it on!

Huge thanks for all the time and effort you put into your books and website Mark. Truly inspirational!

Florence